When is a house not a house?

The “American dream” of “home ownership” isn’t equally applied in this country. Nope, I’m not talking about racial discrimination in lending, or even restrictive covenants in deeds, it’s the type of home you choose. If your home isn’t built in a factory, and brought to the site on wheels, it’s somehow worthy of a preferred social status. Congratulations, you aren’t “trailer trash” if you have a basement.

Even though your “trailer” could be built on the exact same assembly line as those groovy, LEED certified, hip cool “Litehouse” you won’t get a deed to your home, just a title if you lease the land underneath.

Land “leasers” beware- you are a second-class citizen- especially in Montgomery County, where we’ve watched one “land lease community” (a euphemism for trailer park) after another get hassled and pushed into oblivion. Moraine had a long running battle to eliminate a trailer community south of Stroop, and now we get treated to a similar battle in Riverside:

Montgomery County Water Services is unwilling to work out a payment plan with the owner of Laws Mobile Home Park, which faces suspension of its license and disconnection of its water and sewer service because of $340,000 in unpaid property taxes and water bills.

Owner Kim Knoppe would have to pay the full outstanding water and sewer balance, $193,000, to prevent the Nov. 15 disconnection of those services, said Cathy Petersen, county spokeswoman.

Unless he comes up with the full past-due amount, residents of the 27 occupied trailers in the mobile home park at 2300 Valley Pike will be forced to move out by the disconnection date.

After years of working with the park’s management, county officials late last month finally decided that a financial compromise will not suffice, Petersen said.

“There were payments being made on the water bill, but not enough to cover the entire bill,” Petersen said.

Knoppe, a Columbus-area real estate investor, has not been a complete deadbeat. He has paid more than $144,000 to the county in water bills since taking ownership in 2007, county officials said.

The payments, however, did not make much of a dent in the overall amount owed.

But Knoppe noted when he became the park’s title holder, he unwittingly inherited a $127,000 water bill, according to documents he filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Knoppe claims he was the victim of a conspiracy executed by the park’s former owner and others to defraud his lending company out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to filings in his civil case involving the former owners.

Knoppe claims the park’s former owner charged residents for water and sewer costs but then pocketed the money. He claims the previous owner misrepresented the value of the park and the number of tenants….

Although county water officials said they will not accept anything less than the full amount Knoppe owes, the County Treasurer’s office is willing to arrange a payment plan for him for the back taxes, said Lessia Goad-Dilley, assistant treasurer for tax delinquency.

Goad-Dilley said she has been in contact with Knoppe, who has yet to pay any taxes on the property.

After the Public Health-Dayton and Montgomery County shuts off the park’s water and suspends its license, Riverside plans to remove as many trailers as it can from the site using $190,000 in grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Some of the grant money will be available to help displaced residents move.

City manager Bryan Chodkowski said the property is located in a widely traveled area and still has a lot of potential for redevelopment.

But the city may assess the cost of its cleanup measures onto the property taxes, adding to the park’s debt, Chodkowski said.

via No payment deal for mobile home park owner.

The first question is how did a mobile home park have water with $127,000 in unpaid bills? Why wasn’t the water shut off much earlier? And, if the land owner was collecting payments for water and then not paying the bill- why wasn’t he charged with theft?

The second question is how a property can transfer ownership, without the water bill being settled?

One must also wonder about how the property taxes are being assessed, and how that bill could also be allowed to get that big in such a short time, since the property taxes should have been taken care of when the real estate transferred.

I’ve seen real estate investors purchase buildings that haven’t even had water meters, get hit with huge water bills- holding up development because of these bureaucratic failures.

Coming back to the Law’s mobile home park, why is Riverside involved in this dispute? How do they already have Federal money waiting- and why are they already talking about charging the park for the cleanup? Is this all one big ruse to acquire real estate with “a lot of potential for redevelopment” at a fire-sale price?

There is something very wrong with this story. But ultimately, the people who will lose the most are the people who live in the 27 occupied trailers. Their homes don’t count, nor, it seems do they.

When you are poor, even your home isn’t a home- it’s just a gambling chip in the crooked game of government-sponsored, taxpayer funded “economic development.”

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4 Responses

  1. Robert Vigh October 5, 2010 / 12:47 pm
    My water bill for 3 adults runs about $50.00 / month. 50 x 27 x 12(months) = $16,200 per year and they owed $127,000.

    Lack of private property and the ability to tax the land on a perceived value are the major problems in this story. Which, that is essentially crooked government. David, I am glad that you recognize this as a problem. Perhaps one day, I can convince you that schools, roads and other government taken assets have the same inherit problems. :)     Collusion, corruption and mis-management.

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  2. Jesse October 5, 2010 / 4:49 pm
    Robbie Vigh,
    His water bill, including penalties, has to be at least $52,500 per year if we are to believe the information in the article cited above.
     
    He inherited $127,000 in debt.  He paid $144,000.  He still owes $193,00.  It has been at most 4 years since he took ownership.
     
    An important question is…if water were privately supplied, would it cost $52,500 a year?
     
    I would also like to suggest that it may be a bad idea to tell the government that they may be undercharging you by about 3 times. :)
     

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  3. Shortwest Rick October 5, 2010 / 11:21 pm
    Looking at property tax records on the county website,  it looks like after Mr. Knoppe took possession of the property in 2007 $104,623.15 suddenly appeared on his 2007 tax bill for delinquent water and property taxes from 2004 and 2006. My best guess is the previous owner was on a payment arrangement and the arrangement expired when the property changed hands. Of course, the purchase agreement determines whether or not he has recourse.

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  4. Shannon October 6, 2010 / 7:47 am
    @Robert Vigh.  You must live in the City of Dayton, the trailor park is in the Montgomery County water district and the water/sewer rates are different. See the 2010 Water & Sewer Rate Survey provided by the City of Oakwood. There is a $76.55 difference per quarter between the City of Dayton and Mongomery Countys combined Water/Sewer Rate. A 50% increase just for transporting the water! (Montgomery Country purchases its water from the City of Dayton). 
    Besides that, it looks like the County has some poor management of Water billing and Property tax billing,  what other “special” deals are going on?

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